8 December 2014
Last week the Chief Minister, Katy Gallagher MLA, announced she will be resigning as both Chief Minister for the ACT and as a Member of the Legislative Assembly.
The Commonwealth Australian Capital Territory (Self Government) Act 1988 and the Assembly’s standing orders, set out the processes for a Chief Minister to resign, for electing a new Chief Minister, and for electing a new MLA.
Under section 45 of the Self Government Act, the Chief Minister may resign their office by written notice delivered to the Presiding Officer (the Speaker).
On receiving written notice, the Speaker must convene a meeting as soon as is practical to elect a Chief Minister.
At the meeting, a number of procedures must be followed. To commence the proceedings, an MLA will nominate a member to be Chief Minister, and move that they be elected Chief Minister of the Territory. The nominated member must advise the Assembly whether or not they accept.
If there is only one member nominated, the Speaker will declare them to be elected as Chief Minister.
Where more than one member is proposed, an election is held. The Assembly may debate the election with each member permitted to speak for no more than five minutes. After the debate, a secret ballot will be held and the candidate with the greatest number of votes will be declared by the Speaker to be Chief Minister.
Where there are more than two candidates nominated, the new Chief Minister will be the candidate who receives the majority of votes.
There are special rules that determine what happens if there are an equal number of votes for two or more candidates.
Unlike other parliaments in Australia, to fill a casual vacancy (created by the death or resignation of an MLA), the Assembly does not hold a by-election.
Instead, a new member is chosen by recounting the votes received by the vacating member to establish which candidate is next preferred by these voters (the people who originally voted for the vacating member). For a candidate to be considered in this process, they must have contested the original election and also have indicated that they wish to contest the casual vacancy.
In the event that it is not possible to fill the casual vacancy through this process, for example, if a candidate does not come forward to contest the vacancy, the Legislative Assembly will choose a person to fill the vacancy.
If the vacating member was elected as a member of a registered political party – the new member must be of the same political party. If the vacating member was not a member of a political party (for example, an independent member), the person chosen to fill the vacancy cannot have been a member of a registered political party in the 12 months prior to filling the vacancy.
For more information on the how casual vacancies are filled under the ACT’s Hare-Clark electoral system visit the Elections ACT website.